Navigating Divorce: Understanding Divorce in Tennessee

Divorce may seem daunting for spouses approaching this legal process for the first time. Even those who have been through prior divorces might be unclear on how Tennessee dissolves marriages. While internet research can provide plenty of basic information, divorce is a highly personal process that varies depending on the situation of each individual spouse. In order to receive guidance based on their unique priorities, spouses can consult with experienced divorce lawyers in Nashville. Book a consultation with the Burdine Law Firm to discuss this legal process in more detail. 

Is Tennessee an Equitable Distribution State?

Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. In other words, family courts consider many factors when dividing marital property between spouses. Nashville property division lawyers explain that the goal of these considerations is to strive for an “equitable” outcome. It is important to realize that “equitable” and “equal” are not the same. While a community property state divides marital property in a somewhat arbitrary, 50/50 manner, an equitable distribution state like Tennessee may award more property to one spouse than the other. 

This can be advantageous with the right strategies. For example, a spouse might have contributed to the family home with manual labor, cleaning, gardening, DIY renovations, and more. These non-financial contributions can be equivalent to mortgage payments over many years. In addition, there are many other factors that Tennessee family courts consider when approaching the equitable distribution process:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age of the spouses
  • The mental health of the spouses
  • The physical health of the spouses
  • The employability of the spouses
  • The debts of each spouse
  • The financial needs of each spouse
  • The estate of each spouse
  • Any wasteful behavior during the marriage
  • The value of each spouse’s separate property
  • Tax implications
  • Social Security benefits
  • Any other factors the court considers important

Note that the equitable distribution process only applies to marital property. Separate property includes assets acquired before the marriage, after the separation, through inheritance, or as gifts. Spouses can keep all of their separate property without having to worry about the equitable distribution process. 

Is Tennessee a No-Fault Divorce State?

Tennessee is not a “true” no-fault state when it comes to divorce. A true no-fault state only provides one acceptable “grounds” for divorce – usually called “irreconcilable differences.” By citing irreconcilable differences, spouses do not need to prove anything in particular to end their marriages. 

That being said, Tennessee still gives spouses the option to pursue no-fault divorces if they meet certain requirements. The first option is to simply live apart for two years. As long as the spouses do not have children, this “separation period” allows them to move forward with a divorce. Another option is to sign a marital dissolution agreement and create a parenting plan. As long as this agreement is approved by the family courts, the spouses can move forward with a divorce. 

Alternatively, spouses in Tennessee can move forward with a “fault-based” divorce by citing one of the many grounds for divorce:

  • Adultery
  • Substance abuse
  • Inappropriate marital conduct
  • Desertion
  • One spouse is convicted of a felony
  • The wife becomes pregnant by another man
  • Malicious attempt upon the life of another
  • Impotency or sterility
  • Bigamy
  • Abandonment

Due to the relative ease of no-fault divorce in Tennessee, most spouses choose to file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences. 

How Long Does Alimony Last in Tennessee?

In theory, alimony can continue indefinitely in Tennessee. In practice, however, such arrangements are rare. The duration of alimony depends on the duration of the marriage. Short marriages may result in shorter alimony durations. Extremely short marriages may result in no alimony whatsoever. For longer-term marriages and so-called “gray divorces” in old age, spouses can expect to pay more alimony. This is because dependent spouses may no longer have the ability to work and earn income. 

Spouses may also modify their alimony agreements if circumstances change over time. If a paying spouse suddenly becomes ill or disabled, their inability to earn an income may allow them to lower or cease their alimony obligations. If a spouse receiving alimony suddenly inherits a large sum of cash, they may lose their access to alimony. There are many life changes that may alter alimony over time. 

Who Gets Child Custody in Tennessee?

When making decisions about child custody in Tennessee, family courts always consider the best interests of the children. This is their primary focus, and the needs or wants of parents are largely irrelevant. According to experienced child custody attorneys in Nashville, when determining the best interests of the children, family courts in Tennessee may consider the following factors:

  • The relationships between children and parents
  • The ability of each parent to care for their child
  • The ability of each parent to provide for their child
  • The emotional and developmental needs of the child
  • The moral or ethical behavior of the parent
  • The child’s existing relationships with other family members
  • Any evidence of child abuse
  • The preference of the child if they are over the age of 12
  • The parents’ work schedules
  • Any other factors that the court considers relevant

Based on these factors, family courts will decide who should get custody of a child following a divorce in Tennessee. 

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Tennessee?

An uncontested divorce is when parents agree on how to handle their divorce before going to court. They may formalize these agreements in a special contract, and this helps them avoid expensive, time-consuming, and stressful litigation. This process is only possible if spouses in Tennessee pursue a no-fault divorce. 

Find a Tennessee Divorce Lawyer Today

There are many details to discuss when it comes to a Tennessee divorce. Spouses might need to factor in the number of children they have, the property they own, their income, and a range of highly specific circumstances. To assess the most optimal course of legal action, it makes sense to speak with a qualified family law attorney in Nashville about these unique factors. Book a consultation with the Burdine Law Firm today to get started with a personalized action plan.